Sunday, October 25, 2009

Shakuntala for today

The word theater comes from the Greeks. It means the seeing place. It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation.

Stella Adler

When we start to come together with scenes, what will we hope to tell our audiences about life and our current social situation. What aspects of Shakuntala mirror or society today. I have found that classical plays last because they remain relevant to the human condition. Ibsen dealt with women's liberation in a male dominated society ( A Doll's House), witch is still very relevant today. Shakespearean themes of love, jealous, biggotry, abition, and the human natures propensity to violence.
Shakuntala surely deals with love and social standing. But what else? I am not making a statement merely asking a question. What aspects themes Shakuntala can relate to people today. What is the overall theme this production will be using or conveying.



Magis Theatre Company said...

Hey Jarde,
Thanks for the post; it's a great opportunity for me to restate some of my favorite themes that I have been tossing around at training for the past few months. Here they are: Fidelity, Keeping your word, Remembrance, Risk, Responsibility, and Consequence.
Fidelity: Promises are so easy to make so hard to keep. Dushyanta makes a promise and does not keep it. In the Mahabharata it is simply because it's not convenient for him to honor his promise. Kalidasa CAN'T BEAR this.. so he invents the sub plot of the curse to excuse the noble king of this flaw.
What makes us break promises? What excuses do we make? How can I say to someone at 11 PM "I will love you forever" and then at 7 AM say "What was your name again?" (I actually know a woman that this happened to)
A somewhat contemporary social situation: a prominent politician is asked about his reasoning, responsibility and forethought about making a disastrous decision. His reply was "I don't remember." This was good enough for 70% of the country to excuse him. Since then, the memory card has been a favorite for politicians to avoid responsiblity. Have we ever done that?
I could go on and on... but I'd rather hear from others.

coolista said...

As I continue to work with the text I too notice the themes George has discussed.
I also notice an element of 'divine intervention'. We learn that Shakuntala was born because the Gods felt a need to distract her father from his pious life. One of the characters mentions that the gods enjoy interrupting peoples lives in this way. Are they testing us? (As in the way Job was tested by God?)
There is one element of the story that stand out to me-- Shakuntala has little to no agency or autonomy-- and is constantly set at the mercy of those around her.
Shakuntala's birth father abandons his daughter in the woods- presumably because she represents his failure and frustration. When King Dushyanta rejects Shakuntala, the hermits do not allow her to return home. She just has to 'lie down and take it'. What would have been different if Anusuya and Priyamvada had warned her of Durvasas' curse?

George said...

Well said Colista. I think the circumstances you describe make her even more powerful. "Fate," another big element in this play, seems to deal her these things, and yet she does not stop with that. She continues, she hopes, she creates autonomy where there is no autonomy given. Perhaps this is what Goethe fell in love with in her: her ability to transform her own limits, a thing she does again and again. How dare she refuse the advances of a King!... but she dares. How can she presume to go to the palace to take a place in the court!... but she presumes. How could she turn her back on the plan to birth her child in the royal precincts to see if the child bears the royal birthmark? She turns from the suspicion of others to her trust in the heavens. All throughout the play when she is pressed upon with the will of others, she claims the autonomy that others would not give her. I think this is why Kalidasa creates these imposed limits: to show how an extraordinary person can trust even in the face of these doubts.